National Volunteer Month: Harper and Micah Become the Best of PALs

April 19, 2022

National Volunteer Month: Harper and Micah Become the Best of PALs

In honor of National Volunteer Month, we are highlighting some of our Big PALs of the PAL Program and the impact they have made in the lives of their Little PALs. The Big PALs provide guidance, support, and friendship, spending time with their Little PAL at least twice a month and developing a meaningful connection. Many Little PALs come from differing life circumstances and backgrounds, and benefit from an extra adult role model and friend in their lives.

Harper and Micah’s Story

Harper Landau and her Little PAL, Micah, matched just two years ago, two weeks after the pandemic began. But COVID-19 did not stop their budding friendship, and the two spent time together bonding over Zoom. Once some of the restrictions were lifted, they enjoyed outdoor activities together.

Harper describes 8-year-old Micah as a “very active” girl, and said, “Micah is always down for doing something fun and different. She loves riding her bike and going to the playground. We also love to do girly things together like get our nails done, and we both love getting sushi and ice cream.”

As their friendship has developed, Harper said Micah has opened up more to her.

“In the last year or so, I noticed she is coming out of her shell more,” Harper said. “She is more open to talking about what’s going on in her life, and talking about her feelings when she is upset or excited.”

Harper said that being a Big PAL to Micah has made a positive impact in her life as well.

“When I am with Micah, I am more likely to try new things and do things I wouldn’t normally do,” Harper said. “I’ve really enjoyed that aspect of our friendship.”

Harper explained that Micah and her sister – who also has a Big PAL – are only a few years apart in age, and they are both being raised by their single mother. Growing up, Harper said she found important mentors in neighbors and other family members. Micah and her sister’s family currently lives in different states, and Harper has been happy to step into the role of a non-family member mentor.

“It’s so important to have someone outside of your parent or sibling to be that go to person–to have somebody you can talk to you when you are nervous, excited, or upset, and who you can share your life journey with," she said. "I am happy to be that person for Micah.”

How Jewish Atlanta Led Harper to the PAL Program

Though Harper didn’t move to Atlanta until 2017, she had formed a strong connection with the Atlanta community from a young age. She grew up in Memphis but attended Camp Barney Medintz as a child. During this time, she noticed the differences between the Jewish community she knew in Memphis versus what she learned about the Atlanta Jewish community.

“The Memphis Jewish community is close knit, but a lot smaller,” Harper said. “I knew 85 percent of the Jewish people back home. I wanted to move somewhere with a large Jewish community where I could meet new people and make my own way. And I had so many positive memories about the Atlanta Jewish community from my time with Barney, where I also served as a counselor as an adult. The community was so open and welcoming.”

Harper previously worked at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, where she learned more about JF&CS and the PAL Program and worked to spread awareness of its programs to others. For Harper, it was a case of “practice what you preach” when she decided to volunteer with the PAL Program herself.

“I am telling all these other young adults how great the PAL Program is,” Harper said. “I thought, ‘I should do it, too!’ And I’m glad I did.”

Thank you to Harper and all our PAL volunteers for all you do! If you are interested in becoming a Big PAL or know a child who could benefit from having a Big Pal, please click the button below to learn more about the program.